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Opinion Editorials

Premium WordPress Themes – Not Your Average Theme



revolution-tech.jpgAnyone that uses WordPress blogging platform knows that there was a severe drought in themes this past year.  Searching for new themes in 2006 would return you themes created in 2005- welcome to boring.

The cry for WordPress CMS style themes as well as a more professional 2.0 bend brought a fantastic designer into the limelight, that designer being Brian GardnerThe Revolution Themes designed by him with a CMS / Magazine style interface appears to have opened a new craze in the WordPress theme world.  These Premium themes start in price from $49 all the way up to $100 for a single license with Brians themes landing in the $79 range and up (not bad).  Some of the themes are worth every penny, other themes designed by others are ripoffs of other themes, but for a price, the theme drought is over. 

Here’s the thing with WordPress themes, even the new Premium themes- they can be complicated in many cases, there’s no money back guarantee, and they lack automation.  Also, these themes leak SEO due to percieved repeat content by search engines and require close management and adjustment using SEO plugins. 

Another issue I have is the idea of charging for the initial theme without allowing access to the admin panel.  Many of these larger CMS style themes require modification of content independently of the blog- for example setting up featured articles or new stories- these updates may require you to update featured content often as opposed to static content.

So here are a few tips & suggestions

for new and seasoned WordPress users when looking at themes to purchase.

  • Before dropping coin on a pretty premium theme, you need to discover the purpose of your site in general.  Content Management Systems are more like websites with a blog background.
  • Read the tutorials section of the theme you’re contemplating.  Read each tutorial to discover your depth of knowledge editing the various regions of the theme.
  • Click through the demos of the themes placing your content in the various sections in your mind (or on paper as I do)- does it work for your situation?  Do not assume it is simple to remove or add sections as a removal of a section could destroy the themes look and navigation although re-purposing a section is generally the way to go.
  • Seek out the level of assistance that comes with the theme- is the designer willing to work with you to work out solutions to your unique needs- if not, move on.
  • Is there a forum that addresses code or theme problems (premium doesn’t mean perfect)?
  • Are the plugins needed to use as the theme is demonstrated, packed into the theme already for installation?  For $49 dollars and up they should be.
  • Never purchase a Premium theme similar to another in your profession unless you intend on having a professional designer change your theme dramatically.  Many newer, less savvy agents must understand that just because you’ve been okay with template sites like advanced access and xsites in the past does not mean someone who is live / self hosted already will want their design copied – be creative and be unique, theft of layout and design is not a compliment, nor is copying the branding or copyof someone elses site.  (here’s an awesome example of CSS & copy theft.)

Suggested Designers: (Designers I personally like)

Brian and Cory have teamed up on a new internet venture centered around site design – will be bringing you more, so stay tuned!

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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  1. Robert D. Ashby

    January 18, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Benn – I like the Rev Tech theme, except I don’t see it working for most of our blogging styles. I tend to like the neoclassical theme and a few others, then tweaking them as I learn more about programming (my company site is html only and needs upgrading also).

    I am currently pursuing a changeover from my current Typepad to WordPress under the same host as I feel WordPress presents better opportunities (running a mirror site right now). What do you think?

  2. Benn Rosales

    January 18, 2008 at 9:48 am

    WordPress as CMS for a company site is the only reason you would want to do it- it’s a blog with a landing page and architecture for your content.

  3. Drew Meyers

    January 18, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I like both Brian and Cory as designers as well — Brian is the guy behind the theme on Zillow Blog, and Cory designed Geek Estate (and I use a theme of his on my personal blog as well as the CoRE blog). That’s awesome they’ve teamed up.

  4. Cory Miller

    January 18, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Benn, thanks for the link and comments! We’re pumped about offering quality themes for small business-type websites. I think the SEO benefits that WordPress brings to the table, coupled with well-designed themes, offer a lot to local businesses looking for new customers, such as realtors.

    Drew, thanks for the nice comments as well!

  5. Benn Rosales

    January 18, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I agree totally…

  6. Carson Coots

    January 18, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Rev Mag is what I am working with right now, and it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to figure out. Plus you have to make sure the images are a consistent size, and those thumbnails dont create themselves.

    Check this out:

  7. Jay Thompson

    January 18, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Benn – what you’ve done with Revolution at is nothing short of art. Fine art. You are the master.

    That the guy at stole your copy verbatim is a crime. Literally.

    The problem I’m seeing with “premium” themes is they are becoming as widespread as free themes. While the number of sites using Revolution will never approach the numbers of something like a K2 theme, they are really beginning to pop up — particularly the “magazine style” themes. I wonder if any of these theme developers have ever considered issuing “limited editions”. I can understand why they don’t, as the amount of work developing a theme is considerable. But as the popular ones begin to become widespread, it does dilute the “specialness” of the premiums.

    Curious here… You say, “Never purchase a Premium theme similar to another in your profession unless you intend on having a professional designer change your theme dramatically”. I don’t understand why someone that purchases a theme should be required to change the theme dramatically. Why is a purchased theme any different than a free one? How is an agent to know if some other agent out there is using a similar theme???

  8. Benn Rosales

    January 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    You’re not required to do anything. Add a little 2.0 thinking to the rationality behind my statement and it’s obvious the point is to be above or a step beyond what would be normal. If you want to be average, why buy a premium theme?

    But let me take this to another level here – if you’re no longer busting out a monthly fee for template built sites like xsite or advanced, then obviously you’ve saved some cash, why not invest one year of monthly payment to the design of your site. Then, you’re more likely to be unique and set apart in your market.

    Seperate niche applications of a premium theme is not at issue here- I’m thinking ahead Xs 1.4 million… go bigger than the last or don’t go at all.

    You make both of my points here: “But as the popular ones begin to become widespread, it does dilute the “specialness” of the premiums.”

  9. Benn Rosales

    January 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    and by the way, don’t kid yourself, these premium themes are getting more dull by the day, the overall intent is to capture new business and that business is to design you something special. If not, it’s still an out of the box application.

  10. Carson Coots

    January 18, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    The average joe that doesn’t spend 15 hours a day scouring blogs and wordpress themes can’t even tell a K2 from a Revolution from a MistyLook. I don’t think there is too much to worry about as long as the headers/colors are tweaked. Man, in my office, they wouldn’t even know a kubrick if it slapped them in the face.

  11. Daniel Rothamel

    January 19, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    I’m a Revolution fan, duh. I agree that using the premium themes isn’t necessarily easy, but in the case of Revolution, the free support forum is excellent. Plenty of good advice and helpful people.

    I do agree that a theme such as Revolution is basically a blog with a landing page, but in my case, and in the case of our brokerage blog, that is exactly what I want. It offers flexibility. I need to get to tweaking the SEO.

    As far as what guys like you and Rudy Bachraty are doing with Revolution– impressive.

    One day, one day. . .

  12. Steve Belt

    January 27, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Benn, I’m a bit behind in my multi-author blog reading, but I had some time this weekend, and finally did a tiny bit of catching up, when I stumbled upon this. I completely agree with Jay… is an astounding implementation of Revolution.

    I’ve sent a request off to Brian Gardner, asking him to work his magic for me. I hope my lame website, which has a theme many agent websites share (and did I mention how lame it is?) will get Revolutionized. If he can’t take on my little project, I’ll have to do it myself, but I’d really rather he did it.

  13. Steve Belt

    January 27, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    PS- Thanks to this, my catching up on reading blogs was completely thrown into a tail spin…but that’s a good thing.

  14. Benn Rosales

    January 27, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Steve, I aim to please… happy Sunday!

  15. Benn Rosales

    January 27, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Steve – did you see this?

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Opinion Editorials

Interviews shouldn’t include ‘how did you improve yourself?’ during or after COVID

(EDITORIAL) Emotional Intelligence will be even more needed in recruiting talent and Interviews shouldn’t look the same as they did pre-COVID.




Question: Remember that last time you dealt with a global pandemic?
Answer: No, because most likely, none of us have.

This is new for many of us. We’ve likely each felt the rollercoaster of emotions or even grief as our ways of lives changed, some were quickly moved to working remotely while others were deemed essential workers and were not able to work from home. It was disheartening for many that no matter what position they were put in, it was with no choice. And then there were the millions of jobs eliminated as well, affecting people’s ability to pay their bills and fulfill their own safety, and even basic needs. Everyone entered survival mode, and it looks the same yet different depending on your unique situation.

All of this comes at a price that seems hard to predict. Moving forward will be different albeit many of us don’t know exactly how yet, and are imagining a wild range of possibilities. Now that the US unemployment is up to 14.7%, there will also be many people job searching and finding themselves in interviews answering the typical “Tell me about yourself”, or “Tell me about a time when…” Most likely many candidates will be able to tell you about their previous work experiences, but here’s what we ask of future employers:

  1. Be more understanding (less judgmental or pushy) if you see folks looking to switch careers, or you see Small Business Owners applying for your open position. This may have been an opportunity for them to explore another avenue, or it may have been forced if their previous type of position (or business) is no longer available. Of course, you can ask them why they are interested in the position, but try not to look down your brow if they seem to be an unlikely or unexpected candidate.
  2. Do not ask what this candidate did to be productive during the quarantine. Just surviving may have been enough. If they did take up a new hobby, learn a new coding language, write a book, or start a new work out program, I’m going to guess it will come out in conversation. If they literally had to utilize the majority of their energy for coping skills, that should be enough. Don’t believe all the sourdough starters you saw on Instagram (and why has banana bread been so popular?)
  3. Try to avoid some of the ridiculous questions that tell you nothing about their skill set. We get it, interviews can be boring so you thought it might be fun to ask the interviewee for their favorite joke such as “What 5 items would they want on a deserted island?” or “What fruit they would be in a smoothie?” This has been an extremely traumatic situation for many. The goofy questions are not really applicable, and will only lead to additional stress after they leave thinking over if they “got the answer right”.
  4. Please do your best to really utilize this time to hire with diversity and inclusion in mind. Do not dismiss someone because they have several years of experience in another sector or because they didn’t attend the Ivy League school. If they applied, chances are they do have an interest in your company, so exploring how they can be a great fit, bring in a refreshing perspective, and may be a better option than hiring something that exactly matches the job description (which may be hard to find anyway) is a smart idea. Please be open to a variety of ages, races, and sexes.

Interviews in general can conjure up lots of negative feelings, anxiety, and stress. Most people don’t like the stress of interviews but yet they have accepted that this is part of the job search process. There will be even more people out there looking again, and likely not because they want to. The mental toll this is taking should be handled with care. As this Ask a Manager article beautifully states:

“If someone is teaching themselves a new language or building their coding skills during the pandemic, that’s great. But to present it as an expectation during a time when millions of people are struggling to keep their homes, feed their families, and stay alive — to imply people might be less worthy of employment if they needed to focus on their finances and their safety during a f’ing global crisis — no. No. Something has gone very wrong in anyone who believes that.”

The companies with openings may have an advantage with many available and interested candidates but they also have a huge responsibility to not take this lightly; don’t waste people’s time, and don’t ask really INSENSITIVE questions. If you need help reviewing your questions or interview processes, it may be great to assign someone to review Emotional Intelligence tips and see if they can incorporate that in to what you normally do.

Emotional Intelligence is touted as the most required skill of the future (that may have been pre-pandemic), which is, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” This means really reading the room and not putting candidates in an awkward position, or placing unrealistic expectations on them. Oh, and please have a little grace with those virtual interviews – that is also new to some people, so maybe cut them some slack if the nerves have really kicked in.

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Opinion Editorials

Press mute when you’re sobbing on a Zoom (and other COVID mental health observations)

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 had been hard on everybody, but a group often not thought of are those who have mental illness, they struggled in the world before, what about now?



mental illness help

Editors note: This editorial was written anonymously and brings important insight into an issue not often brought up or thought about. We at The American Genius believe this is an important topic to keep in mind about an often silent group that may think they are alone and face extra challenges everyday.

Whether you’re a veteran of working from home, or if you are someone newly learning that muting your mic is important, welcome. Working from home is both rewarding and challenging. This is not an instruction manual on how best to work from home. It’s a guide to working from home and not losing an already delicate mind to existing or potential mental illness.

Some ideas I’d like to convey should ring true now and in the future. However, one aspect is unique to now. I’m writing from the time of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Workers have been divided into two groups, “essential” and “non-essential.” Those considered non-essential were sent home with hopes of slowing the spread of the disease. Those deemed essential, like doctors and grocery store clerks, were considered too vital to our way of life to stay home. One group unable to work, the other unable to stay home.

Then there’s us. A quasi third group. Those who have a job that is so tied to the glowy screen in front of them that it could be performed, in theory, from any location with a computer and internet. Theory was put to practice as many people – accustomed to commuting each day – suddenly learned the joy and perils of working in their jammies.

Working from home is not a new idea, but there had never been such a reason to push so many people to practice it. Some companies, historically, felt uncomfortable with workers staying home. With the arrival of COVID-19 they had a change of heart and now insist on it. Once and for all we will find out which meetings could have just been an email.

The pandemic has been hard on many people. If one is able to avoid the disease itself, they are still subject to staying in and staying isolated. Many never leave their home except for groceries or prescriptions. Some people thrive in this situation, but for others, it puts pressure on the mind and spirit. What about those who already have such a toll on their state of mind due to mental illness?

Working a job, or doing anything, with mental illness can be its own challenge. Mental illnesses and disorders that can affect your work include depression, PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and borderline personality disorder – just to name a few. So what happens when those who suffer from one or more of these mental health issues have to stay at home every day for work?

There are advantages. If a moment strikes you when you can’t be your professional self, you can often step away and have that cup of tea and peace of mind. Going heads-down and focusing on your task is where you might thrive. However, working from home can still mean having dead-lines and going to live meetings. Needing help or coordination from distant workers can quickly tax your social resources.

There will be a great deal of communication through multiple methods ranging from group video calls to instant messages. Things can get out of control quickly if you don’t set limits. When you want to reach someone it may be unclear which method to use. “Should I email or call them?” you might find yourself pondering. This can frustrate you to the point of not taking action at all. Getting a handle on the lines of communication is vital.

Request to have as few modes of communication as possible. You might find yourself responding to text messages, reading emails, taking phone calls, or answering instant messages from WhatsApp, Slack, or more. It will certainly create a growing obsession towards monitoring notifications rather than actual work.

If a consensus can not be found, give your coworkers clear communication on how you want to be reached, and ask them what they prefer. Needing to check the notification on so many apps is a recipe for a panic attack and overwhelming yourself.

Let’s consider meetings. You’ve seen it by now – or you will – a Zoom meeting with people saying “hello hello, is this thing on?” It’s amazing that in a time we all have computers in our pocket, that it’s still hard to coordinate things like your own audio, video, and even lighting conditions. If you suffer panic attacks it’s best not to be unknotting your earphones while the CEO is about to make a big presentation. Get ready early, check that you can be heard and can hear others. If another meeting is about to start, leave on time. Respect the start time of that new meeting. Overlapping meetings that never end are a sign that boundaries are not being observed. Boundaries are hard for most, but if you have a mental illness they can feel impossible to set.

On a similar note, let’s look at the start and end of work. Being on time is important. Wait, you just need to roll out of bed and turn on a computer? Great, but is it though? You get there just in time to say the proverbial “here!” If you are not ready to work, you are falling behind. Extend this idea to the day itself. When is the day over? Did you start a little late so you feel obligated to work a little later? Do you have a time when other people can expect that you won’t get their message until the next business day? Does working-from-home turn into working-all-the-time?

Getting to work on time also means leaving work on time. Those who have had a reactive or abusive partner know that setting boundaries can escalate situations instead of repairing them. Telling your boss “I’ll like to be offline after 6:30.” can result in the fear that you’ll just be told to close your computer and never return. But these are the boundaries one must set. Finding this work-life balance is doubly important for the mentally ill because we need to reserve time for ourselves for repair and growth.

Among all my reminders to you, remember to leave the house. In the time of COVID-19, this gets convoluted because “Stay home, stay safe!” is the phrase of the day. Having issues going outside can be a part of mental illness. In extreme cases, some people are afraid to go out the front door. With nearly everything being available for delivery now possible to stay home for days, but this is not a good recipe for mental health. When your day ends – and make sure it ends – get some fresh air and possibly some exercise.

Plan the rest of your day ahead of time. Look forward to it and go out and enjoy it. Day to day life is already hard with mental health issues. Don’t let working from home be another hardship. Breath deeply, take care of your mind and don’t let the mixture of home and work overwhelm you. Don’t forget your most important job is to take care of yourself.

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Opinion Editorials

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?



distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions

    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions

    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items

    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation

    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace

    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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